CHRCL - Border Externalization & Human Rights



Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those  

            who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."       
- Franklin D. Roosevelt                          

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U.S. Border Externalization Creates

Human Rights Crisis in Mexico

The Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children was launched during the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in 2012, to draw attention to the many detrimental effects that immigration detention has on children, and to encourage states to cease the immigration detention of children consistent with their CRC obligations. Please consider signing the Campaign's below petition to end the detention of children.

Human Rights Groups Denounce U.S.-Mexico Campaign to Interdict and Summarily Deport Central American Refugees

April 14, 2016. Today over 35 faith-based groups and human rights organizations filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States denouncing the joint campaign of the United States and Mexico--the infamous Plan Frontera Sur--to interdict and summarily deport persons--including thousands of children and families--fleeing rampant violence in Central America's "northern triangle": Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The petition, Adolescentes en el Camino, et al. (United States and Mexico), Case P-652-16, marshals extensive evidence that the two governments are deporting tens of thousands of men, women and children to jurisdictions in which they run a clear risk of persecution and death, in violation of the long-standing international prohibition against refoulement of refugees. Petitioners ask the Commission to rule, inter alia, that interdicted refugees are entitled to a full and fair process by which their eligibility for international protection in Mexico may be determined

The petition also contends that the two governments unlawfully detain Central America asylum-seekers en masse and subject them to conditions of hyper-violence and impunity in Mexico in an unconscionable and illegal effort to deter them from seeking international protection.

We hope the Commission will use the petition to extend the law of human rights on interdiction, which the Commission last addressed comprehensively in The Haitian Centre for Human Rights et al. (United States), Report No. 51/96, Case 10.675, March 1997, to rule (1) that the U.S. may not evade responsibility for complying with international protections against refoulement by outsourcing border control to Mexico; and (2) that by creating and condoning conditions of hyper-violence and impunity against migrants transiting Mexico,  the U.S. and Mexico unlawfully obstruct refugees from winning international protection.

We also hope the petition will serve as a tool to advocate for greater responsibility in U.S. policy in the region: i.e., that U.S. support for the Plan Frontera Sur should end until and unless the Inter-American Commission certifies that Mexico is in substantial compliance with its obligations to confer refuge or other international protection on deserving Central Americans fleeing the Northern Triangle.

Petitioners are represented by the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, affiliates of the USC-Gould School of Law International Human Rights Clinic, Latino Justice PRLDEF, the Van Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law, La Raza Centro Legal, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

The  petition is an extension of the Center's advocacy on behalf of immigrant and refugee children detained in the United States; such children are increasingly being interdicted in Mexico and summarily deported to countries in which they suffer horrific persecution.

The petition is available for download here.
ESBOZO en español, aunque un poco diferente de la versión archivado, está disponible por este vínculo.

January 13, 2017: Petitioners presented a formal request that the Commission convene a hearing to consider the plight of thousands of Central Americans whose human rights the United States and Mexico continue to violate with impunity and increasing intensity. The hearing request is available here.


In June 2015, the Center joined several faith-based and immigrants' rights organizations on a fact-finding visit to southern Mexico. The Center's  findings include the following:
  1. In the wake of the June 2014 "surge" in Central American children and families entering the United States, Mexico dramatically increased the interdiction of Central American refugees en route to the United States; Mexico has done so principally at the behest of, and with funding from, the United States. Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for International Affairs, has been quoted as saying, "The Guatemalan border with Chiapas is now [the United States'] southern border."
  2. Conditions  interdicted women and children experience in Mexico's detention camps—euphemistically called "migration stations"—are abysmal. Women and children regularly endure long periods of detention under exceedingly harsh conditions. Few ever learn they have a right to seek international protection; fewer still have the wherewithal to endure harsh detention long enough for their asylum claims to be adjudicated. Upwards of 95 percent are deported without ever receiving an adjudication of their eligibility for international protection.
  3. Mexico's Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados, or COMAR, is charged with adjudicating international protection claims. The agency is grossly under-funded to handle even the relatively small number of applications Central American mothers and children manage to file. And even then, COMAR's proceedings fall far short of  affording refugees a fair and objective assessment of their rights to international protection. 
  4. Harsh, prolonged detention and woefully inadequate procedures for determining international protection claims combine to deny Central American refugees any meaningful opportunity to save themselves from deportation: According to a recent report by the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child, in all of 2014 Mexico granted refugee status to only 18 children.
  5. Mexico's interdiction program, known as the Plan Frontera Sur, has not ended the desperate exodus of women and children from the northern triangle countries, but it has made their journey far more perilous. Forced to journey on foot through remote areas in order to avoid proliferating checkpoints, refugees become easy prey for criminal gangs and corrupt  officials, who rape women and girls, hold refugees for ransom, and quell resistance with machetes. In the Buen Pastor shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas, our delegation met dozens of mutilados: refugees who'd lost hands, arms, feet, and legs while attempting to circumvent U.S.-funded border police and checkpoints. Violent crimes against refugees are rarely investigated, and even more rarely prosecuted. Under such generalized conditions of impunity, refugee women and children are open targets for criminal gangs, which often work in league with corrupt police.
  6. Mexico's faith-based and human rights community has demonstrated uncommon heroism in seeking to defend Central American migrants. Humanitarian aid workers, their spouses and their children, are regularly threatened. Human rights defenders and shelter providers work under exceedingly adverse conditions and with little hope for meaningful improvement in the treatment Central American  women  and children experience in Mexico. 
  7. The United States has done little to prevent U.S. taxpayers from unwittingly supporting systematic violations of human rights against women and children in Mexico. Little public information is available regarding the amount and sources of U.S. funding for Mexico's interdiction program, and even less is known about procedures for ensuring that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not disappear into the pockets of corrupt and unscrupulous officials who systematically persecute vulnerable refugees.


An extensive collection of background information, human rights studies, and statistical reports, including many submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, illuminating the U.S.'s support for Mexico's Central American refugee interdiction, is available here.

How to help

Donate to the following humanitarian aid organizations in Mexico:
  • Adolescentes en el Camino, Youth shelter in Oaxaca City, Mexico, serving migrant children.
  • La 72 Hogar y Refugio Para Personas Migrantes, Shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco, serving Central American migrants and refugees.
  • Albergue El Buen Pastor, Shelter in Tapachula, Mexico, that provides shelter, medical care and prostheses for mutilados: refugees who have lost hands, arms, feet and legs in attempting to make their way northward.
  • Estancia del Migrante González y Martínez (EMGM), Tequisquiapan, Querétaro, Mexico, estancia.migrantegym<at> NGO that works out of an abandoned train station in north-central Mexico; chases trains used by an estimated 80 percent of refugees traveling northward. Staff provide food to migrants on moving train cars.
Check this page periodically for other ways to assist Central Americans fleeing violence and persecution.

Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Websites: